Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Kind of High School Does Mt. Lebanon Need for The 21st Century?

Proponents of the current plan for the high school claim that less-expensive options won’t help our students prepare for the 21st century. But what exactly is a good education for the 21st century? And how can we build our high school today to meet the needs of tomorrow?

History suggests that when we try to predict what the future will bring, we get it wrong. In 1995, how well did you predict the ways in which the Internet would change the world? Did you predict anything like Google and their free online mail, maps, and office productivity software? Wikipedia? Did you predict blogging and tweeting? Did you predict that the Internet would allow top universities like MIT, CMU, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, and many others to make their courses available to students around the world, including high school students, for free?

In the year 2000, did you predict that in less than ten years’ time, mobile phones were going to change the lives of young people? Did you predict that constant connectedness and text messaging would become a way of life for them? Did you predict that today, a lot of those free courses from the world’s top universities could be delivered directly to a mobile phone in a student’s hand, anytime, anywhere?

Just fifteen years ago, the Internet and mobile phones were two innovations that most people had never experienced. Nevertheless, both of them dramatically and unexpectedly changed the world we live in today, especially for young people and especially for education.

If we can’t predict the disruptive effects of emerging technologies only ten or fifteen years into the future, even when the technologies have been around for years (the Internet and mobile phones both existed well before fifteen years ago), how are we supposed to anticipate what our students will need decades in the future?

We can’t. We’re terrible at predicting the future. Once we accept this truth, we’ll realize that trying to buy today what our students will need tomorrow isn’t likely to give them what they will actually need when the time comes.

And trying to build the high school for tomorrow is an even greater gamble. With online learning and mobile computing both on the verge of becoming mainstream, do we really expect that in twenty-five years students will need to go to a centralized building to learn?

How, then, should we prepare for the future? The answer is simple: Save. While we can’t know today what we will need for tomorrow’s education, we do know that whatever it is, we can buy it with money. So the way to prepare for tomorrow is to save for it. That way, we can afford to buy whatever our students will need, when the need becomes clear.

That’s why overspending on a high school today is particularly harmful. Not only does it waste our money today, it deprives our students of what we could have purchased for them tomorrow.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good or bad, for those that might want to see how we might learn and work in a few short years, I suggest watching this PBS show.

IBM is already having employees meet in virtual conference rooms, can classrooms be far behind.

So why, spend $113,000,000 on old architecture? Look closely at the classrooms in Celli's building G. That's the one that's replacing the obsolete building C.

Are the classrooms really any different? New-- sure, different-- no way!

Big question is will we even need classrooms 5,10,15 years from now? And will our teachers be able to teach in the digital enviroment?

Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we all subscribed to, we could have all attended and interacted in the Act 34 hearing from the comfort of our livingrooms. Not years form now, NOW!
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 12:36 AM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

Those virtual conference rooms aren't at all cheap and the hardware has to be present at every location. IBM does this because flying people around the country costs even more. But if IBM had all those people in one town you can be sure they would meet in person.

February 25, 2010 1:45 AM  
Blogger Tess Carter said...

As someone who recently got a Master's in Education- I have a lot of first hand experience with said virtual classrooms and even a course specifically on virtual technology in education- namely SecondLife.

You're right- virtual classrooms are definitely going to me more important and prevalent in the future. They can be VERY effective- even SecondLife. I've participated in quite a few- quite happily.

I have to wonder to what extent Lebo would have a NEED for it at the high school level. Is there a need for DISTANCE learning in a community that prides itself on being walkable??? We are a one high school district. I've seen great use of this technology back in Texas- in a district where there are 10 high schools and not every school offers every specialized course.

I'm not saying we wont need this technology- I'm asking more about our district (I've only been here 6 months). Who would Lebo partner with for these virtual classrooms?

This technology has been very successful for me- but only when I was in courses where very motivated students from across Texas all took the same course. Virtual learning will likely be utilized in future high schools, but in such a small district I have to wonder to what extent??

In-person education is still more effective, personal, and rewarding. Virtual technology just helps us span distance- AND that virtual technology does get installed into a traditional classroom.

Don't get me wrong- I'm all for the HS being fully equipped technologically, but as a recent transplant from Texas (where everything really is bigger), I do have to chuckle at all this talk of virtual 'distance' learning in a town that doesn't even need school buses. :)

February 25, 2010 5:19 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Dean, I'm sure a lot folks in Lebo don't even have cable, let alone a WiFi connection in their homes. As longs as the IBMs of the world are in business to make a profit, technology will only be available for those who can afford it. And why on earth would we need to have cyber classrooms when we all live within 3 miles of the high school? Technology is great, but please don't try to advocate against the high school project because you think it is a better option than human interaction and classroom learning.

Stated differently, the quickest way to lose our reputation for excellence in education is to become the high school version of the University of Phoenix.

February 25, 2010 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David true... except you miss an important point.
Couple of years from now what will the technology cost?
Cells phones not so many years ago costs several thousands of dollars and were the size and weight of a large brick. Now every kid has one and they're almost free!
My first Apple Mac and laser printer cost over $10,000 dollars in 1985!
!988 or 89, I bought a fax machine for almost $1,000. Ten years later I didn't even need one!
I can remember when I bought my first black & white desktop scanner for $2,500.
The owner of a large Pittsburgh printing firm had just purchase a $1,000,000 scitex color scanner to create color separations. He said why do you want to waste your money on that toy It'll never be good enough for commercial work.
Now with very little training anyone can scan color photos and artwork that rival those done on that million dollar scanner.
Geez, now you don't even need a scanner for photography.
You just download your photos from camera to computer and never touch a hard copy.
Look at cameras and film. Good digital cameras cost thousands of dollars just 5 years ago. You can buy a better more capable Canon, Nikon, Leica for $200-500 now. And beam your photos to anyone, anywhere with a touch of a button.
So, do we want to anchor ourselves in the 20th century or be financially flexible to adopt 21st century changes as they arrive.
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Bob Reich, Jr. said...

Plus, who would want their kids home all day tied to their computers or iPhones? That is all they do now with the 16 hours they AREN'T in school!

February 25, 2010 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said... are not supportive of virtual classrooms ? Then why are you supportive of the proposed HS plan that allegedly is designed for a 21st. century education that , according to the SB majority, cannot be satisfied by a renovation option proposed by the CAC ? You must be of a mind similar to that of the SB majority in sayng 21st. century HS education for the next 35-45 years (the expected life of the proposed scheme per Celli) will require 479,000 sq.ft. of bricks & mortar with all of the attendant FF&E. And yet the entire educational MTLSD system and its bricks & mortar is fragil enough that it just shut down for an entire week because of some snow, along with delayed classes for a number of additional days...and the system and its bricks & mortar essentially is shut down for 3 months each year because of *traditional* summers & spring breaks. You think that *traditional* might not change over the next 10-20-30-40 years ?

How can you and the SB majority demand what you refer to as a HS building complex for a 21st. century education when none of you have offered or have been able to define specifically what a 21st. century education is, much less a building system for it, or will be for Mt. Lebanon ?

How can you and the SB majority be so sure and convinced that you know what future educational processes and delivery systems will be (but can't or won't articulate it) yet the SB majority cannot agree with their own 5-year budget forecasts by their Financial Director (eg. "they're not accurate, they're just estimates !")or the cost estimates of their CM who has stated that in his professional opinion, he believes his cost estimates will be within 95% +/- of actual bid results, and had taken into account recent bids under estimates for several area projects and had escalated his cost estimates to mid-2012 (eg. SB comments "we expect the bids to come in 20% under the estimates...maybe to $85-$90 M")?

This entire flawed process should implode or self destruct ! It has absolutely zero credibility.

February 25, 2010 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, Tess:
I started my comments with Good or Bad.
Unfortunately, I don't think we can hide in Mt. Lebanon.
Watch our kids, they think nothing of interacting with each other, 24 hours a day via text messaging... even when thy're sitting next to each other. Think this way of interacting won't carry over to their future occupations?
Wonder why we need a new library with an emphasis on computer stations.
Yes, nothing compares to reading a good book, but you can't argue against having access to every library, newspaper, document, white paper in the world at the touch of a button.
Seems to me your not moving our HS into the 21st century, you're positioning it to remain planted in the last.
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 9:47 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Bill, I'm not sure what you're asking me. You'd be hard pressed to find a statement anywhere that reflects my support for the current project. Heck, yesterday you loved me!!

Dean seemed to suggest that we might not need classrooms 5,10, 15 years from now, so we shouldn't move forward with the project in its current form (presumably because we won't need the space, so why incur the cost). In response, I suggested that Mt. Lebanon (nor any other urban school) is going to transition from in person classroom learning to stay-at-home cyber classrooms. As such, I don't think he or you are going to convert many people by making that argument.

Can I see the future? Heck no, but I am pretty comfortable assuming that the "delivery system" for education in our town will require that kids make their way to the high school every day.

February 25, 2010 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said...

P.S. It is very telling that the SB majority can define and defend 15 unalterable design criteria for a building system to support 21st. century education, but cannot define what that 21st. century educational delivery system is or will be.

February 25, 2010 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it any better!
You commented:
"As longs as the IBMs of the world are in business to make a profit, technology will only be available for those who can afford it."

I'd change that to:
As longs as the MTLSDs (school districts) of the world are in business to educate kids to participate in the 21st century, technology will only be available for those who can afford it.
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said...

David Franklin...I do love you...I was referring to comments above yours by David Brown. Your comment seems to have been posted while I was preparing & sending mine...I'm a slow, old 1-finger typer.

I love you David cause I think it was your father, if named Paul, who arranged the mortgage for our 1st. house in Lebo in 1966 when he was with Mellon...where we began our family. It is a cherished memory. Hope I'm right.

February 25, 2010 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David F:
I'm not saying we won't need a HS.
I can't imagine how kids could participate in the orchestra, theater or athletics, science labs without one.
Someone at the hearing said something about every full time teacher should have their own classroom. And I agree for now. Unfortunately, trying to imagine the future... students may only need to get together one day a week, spending the rest of time in a virtual classroom.
I don't have an answer, but seems to me a more prudent approach is too keep our options open. ONce we build a $113 million dollar building we're committed.
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 10:19 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Important Reminder: If you want to post a comment, you must sign your name to it, either by entering your full name as part of your comment’s body or by posting your comment while logged into Blogger under a public profile that includes your full name. (See our comments policy, at the top of our blog’s sidebar on the home page.)

I remind readers of this policy because we recently received a long, thoughtful comment that was anonymous; we therefore have chosen not to publish it.

If you submitted a comment and didn’t see it appear online in a reasonable amount of time, please send me email: I'll email the text of your submission back to you, so you can resubmit it under your name. (That way, you won’t have to type it in again.)

P.S. If you ever have a question for Joe or me, send us email. Asking your question via a comment, especially if you are posting anonymously or under an account that has no email address, leaves us with no way to get back to you personally.


February 25, 2010 10:27 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

You're absolutely correct Bill. That's my Dad. He spent 44 years @ Mellon and still lives in Lebo (when he's not in Florida).

February 25, 2010 10:36 AM  
Blogger Tess Carter said...

"Unfortunately, trying to imagine the future... students may only need to get together one day a week, spending the rest of time in a virtual classroom."

Dean, I'm sorry, but as someone who actually STUDIED this type of technology as a use for education, I just can't get on board with that- at least not in the foreseeable future (and not for high-school). But I want to clarify- I am ENTIRELY for a current, up to date, top-of-the-line technology. My remarks are specifically referring to virtual classrooms. Virtual classrooms are a very successful tool- but ONLY when distance is an obstacle. I simply cannot see a situation in which Lebo students would have this problem- except for the occasional sick day (which I don't consider worth the $ just for that). Virtual classrooms are amazing yes, and they do their job well, but their job is only to provide an equal (and they often don't reach that) education to an in-person session.

Last year, I participated in a graduate course taught entirely in secondlife. I did well and participated fully- it was an enriching class. But you know what? I attended from my couch, in my pjs, eating junk food, in front of the tv (I was in college lol). I do NOT think that is the type of education we want for our children in the future. Moderate use of things like secondLife, sure- but that doesn't knock out classrooms or cost much at all.

I'd like to again point out that we have ONE high school in a WALKING community. The only legit need in a high-school I've seen for virtual classrooms are courses only taught at some schools (in districts with 10 high schools).

High-End Technology? YES.
Virtual Classrooms specifically? NO.

February 25, 2010 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said...

Tess...Welcome to Lebo! A recent SB member and SB President was in a family business that sold distance learning systems to school districts in PA and elsewhere. If Lebo goes that route, he will undoubtedly be the first person contacted. One of the distance learning concepts discussed here, I seem to recall as a non-educator, was to *partner* with a number of other Districts, some far distant, in a cooperative system...not limit it to just Lebo.

Regarding a single HS and no busing..note the HS parking lot and street spaces...500 of them plus what is known as the "Commissioners Lot" above the Main Park Pavilions..40 more. The HS is in the center of the only 6 sq. mi. community with a majority of walking HS students. The same is true for the 2 MS's, but not for the 7 Elementary's. While definitely neighborhood schools with enrollment far less than capacity in several cases - very costly, but *traditional* - it seems an ever larger percentage of elementary students are driven to/from by an increasing number of dual income parents/guardians. It used to be in elementary that to stay at school for lunch, a note from home was it's the reverse with free & reduced added; and, the Extended Day program is a booming business.... also stop by the Library after 3:15 p.m. weekdays. It serves as an afternoon day care center for many MS students until 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.

Yeah, this is different than Texas. But then again, everything is.

February 25, 2010 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't about Mt. Lebanon... it's about preparing our kids for life and work in the 21st century.
I'm going to agitate you I'm sure, but you say you're up on technology, admit to even to taking an enriching graduate course with in secondlife.
Here's the question for you... when you were a senior in HS, an undergraduate in college, did you ever imagine that you'd be taking a course using virtual reality?
This is the world our students will be working in, like it or not, and it probably won't be here in Mt. Lebanon.
What do we do... prepare them for life in an IBM corporation... or pretend its not relevant or something we need because we're a small community?
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 4:42 PM  
Blogger Tess Carter said...

Bill, thanks! :) I'm glad to be here, and yes, I'm quite aware that not everything is like Texas lol. I'll also be the first to admit I'm relatively new & don't know nearly as much about the district or its plans as most.

As per the partnering with other districts- I'm VERY glad to hear it! I would go further to encourage not just partnering with districts, but universities and colleges. We routinely had 'guests' in our SecondLife classes that were professors from other universities. Teachers could work with professors even at the college level. :)

As per the high amount of driving, I'm well aware of that!- we live right in front of the high school! My reference to the need was more in comparison to my childhood district- where students had MUCH further to be driven and driving from high school to high school was too far to be an option. I just find a buzz on distance learning somewhat humorous for a small district.

As per partnering though, that technology isn't that big of a hurdle to overcome from what I've seen, and it's not something I think we want to be a future norm for every classroom. Not to mention- when district partnering happens, you STILL need the traditional classroom. I'm all for districts partnering and integrating virtual tools. It's the "only go to class one day a week & we might not need classrooms" option that I find off-putting and not desirable. I apologize if I wasn't as clear as I should have been. :)

I am, however, quite glad to hear this technology even being discussed in regards to the high school!

February 25, 2010 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the discussion has centered on virtual classrooms.
In an earlier post, I submitted a link to a nanotechnolgy article which talks about science teachers at the HS level needing to have electron scanning microscopes and training to use them if our kids are to compete in the global marketplace.
I don't claim to know the future or in which area the technology will change.
And thats my point.. if we're to be nimble. to adapt... we need to be flexible.
Anchoring the district to a $113MM HS isn't going to allow us to nimbl;e or flexible!
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 5:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

I don't think anybody is suggesting that technology will completely replace classrooms, only that as technology offers new ways for students to learn, the traditional modes of teaching will become less important.

Today, almost all learning occurs as group instruction in classrooms. Yet some students are learning at home – successfully – with online instruction. There's a lot of research that supports the view that students who learn via traditional classroom instruction and via "asynchronous online learning" have similar outcomes. Further, research into one-on-one intelligent tutoring systems suggest that such systems can significantly outperform traditional group instruction, at least for certain subjects.

These new ways of learning are effective today, even though they are in their infancy. It's reasonable to believe that as these new ways of learning mature, a good education will rely upon centralized group instruction less and less.


February 25, 2010 5:41 PM  
Blogger Tess Carter said...

Dean- no worries, you didn't agitate me :)
Yes. I did expect it. My high school offered virtual classrooms for courses at other schools & I pursued art, technology, and education in college- I studied under professors specifically geared towards this topic. Frankly, I expected it sooner, but I will admit that my peers might not have at all (my position is unique).

I still hold to the fact that virtual classrooms ONLY allow the overcoming of distance. Nothing else is unique about the education (or communication) experience, so I'm having a hard time understanding what you think Lebo students need to be 'prepared.' Maybe I don't understand your position. How do you expect this technology to be used in our school? Do we need to keep our children home so they can skype in to class- just to be 'prepared' for the future?

I have no disagreement with your point- that they need to be prepared for the future & that we don't know for sure what that holds. But even the highest-tech virtual tools aren't hard to USE & education/communication basics are the same. Even in SecondLife, our class experience was the 'same.' We had the same readings, discussions, presentations, etc...

I could even see having a day or two where all students Skpye or SecondLife in (for the experience), but I cannot fathom any argument leading to a diminished need for classrooms (based on this technology). Using this technology throughout our school I support (skyping in if you're sick, virtual classes with guest speakers, etc), it's the talk about not needing classrooms I can't justify. Is it possible that something new will come along and change all that? Sure. But if it does, it won't be what we're talking about- because all that's used for is overcoming distance.

Again- I don't really disagree with your points. Is this a big part of the future? yes! Do we want it in our children's education? yes! I just don't follow your reasoning on us not needing classrooms and 'old architecture.' What are you proposing we do exactly?? Not have a high school? Cut our classrooms in half in case we don't need them? I'm not trying to be snarky, just trying to figure out how we came to different conclusions (because I agree with your main points!).

February 25, 2010 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No I don't think your being snarky at all, I wouldn't enjoy this blog if everyone agreed me.
In your last post, you ended the 1st paragraph with..."Frankly, I expected it sooner, but I will admit that my peers might not have at all (my position is unique)."
Fortunately for you, you were prepared well and thats what I'm suggesting.
I'm reading articles about nanotechnology, electron scanning microscopes and so on and so forth.
Really Tess, are Mr. Celli's bldg. G classrooms really that much different than what the updated classrooms in bldg. B will be?
The approx. $2 million we'll spend on a bridge and moving tennis courts... wouldn't be better to buy the electron microscopes, quaility art supplies, future technology than bricks and mortar.
And no, I don't expect kids to get dripped on or freeze in Lebo HS classes.
Thanks for the exchange!
Dean Spahr

February 25, 2010 6:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home